In an attempt to reach the lofty standards of nearly 75,000 vehicles on the road, Uber was spending $20 million a month on developing self-driving technologies, according to court documents submitted last week. The company aims to be operating driverless services in 13 cities by 2022.
The documents bring to light the fact that the company in order to meet over-ambitious autonomy targets was willing to spend freely and even recklessly at times to get there.
The company is planning to go public later this year and the latest development serves as a stark reminder of the fact that the company which is planning to have a big say in this field is still trailing in its efforts to develop technology that founder Travis Kalanick called ‘existential’ to Uber’s future, according to a report by TechCrunch.
The report was prepared by Uber in its defense against patent and trade secret theft lawsuit with rival Waymo. Waymo accused Anthony Levandowski of taking with him the trade secrets when he left Google and founded a self-driving truck startup, Otto. Uber later hired Walter Bratic, the author of the report who calculated the total cost to independently develop Waymo’s trade secrets at $605,000, much below Waymo’s valuation of $1.85 billion. Waymo eventually settled for $300 million which is around 0.34 percent of Uber’s equity.
Head of Uber’s self-driving technologies, Eric Meyhofer, said that Uber’s earlier estimates of having tens of thousands of AVs in a dozen cities by 2022 were “highly speculative” “assumptions and estimates.”
The honeymoon period after the acquisition of Otto by Uber was short lived and it lasted just three to four weeks starting in January 2016. And according to Bares, “We never got any lasers out of it. It had… a huge managerial disruption on our staff… as a result of Anthony’s effort to manage and lead.”
This latest report comes as a dampener to Uber’s attempts at commercialization of AV in 13 cities by 2022. Uber reported a net loss of $865 million in the last quarter of 2018 and has never made a profit.